UAE Space Programme: What is the purpose of Analog Mission
Bid to prepare the nation for more ambitious space exploration challenges such as the Mars 2117 Programme.
Abdallah Al Hammadi and Saleh Al Ameri will be members of CrewOne, which is UAE’s first Analog Mission, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) announced recently.
What is Analog Mission and what will CrewOne do?
An eight-month Analog Mission will be conducted at the NEK ground-based analogue facility in Moscow, Russia. The crew participating in the UAE Analog Mission#1 will have a primary and a backup, respectively.
They will embark on a journey to simulate space-like conditions on the Earth at the NEK ground-based analogue facility in Moscow alongside other participants from different countries. The mission is part of the Scientific International Research in Unique Terrestrial Station (SIRIUS) 20/21 and will focus on studying the effects of long-duration isolation and confinement on human psychology and physiology.
Experts said the UAE would be able to contribute to understanding the science behind such missions. It is seen as a bid to prepare the nation for more ambitious space exploration challenges such as the Mars 2117 Programme.
UAE’s space stars
Abdallah Al Hammadi has a foundation degree in aerospace engineering from the Manchester Metropolitan University and a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Abu Dhabi University. He has been part of the UAE Armed Forces for the past 17 years and is currently the Crew Chief of the Maintenance Department (first and second line).
Saleh Al Ameri holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Khalifa University and is a certified vibration analyst from the Mobius Institute. With over six years of experience in his field, Al Ameri is working as a mechanical engineer with ADNOC. Al Ameri’s team had won second place in the Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge 2015, designing the first-of-its-kind solar car in the Arab world that had clocked a mileage of 1,200 kilometres (km).
What did the selection procedure entail?
During the call for applications, the MBRSC had stated that it was looking for Emirati candidates between the ages of 25 and 55, who were passionate about space and can communicate in English.
Preferred occupations included physicians, medical investigators, physiologists, biologists, life-support specialists and information technology (IT) and electronics professionals.
In April 2020, 10 prospective candidates were shortlisted for a second interview with a committee consisting of specialists from various departments and the administration of MBRSC. The candidates also underwent medical and psychometric tests that allowed the team to shortlist candidates to six.
A final interview was then conducted by MBRSC’s senior leadership team, after which the candidates were selected.
The analog astronauts are currently undergoing in-house training, which includes training on the experiments proposed by principal investigators from local universities and Russian language training in preparation for the SIRIUS 20/21 mission.
The purpose behind global Analog Mission
Analog plays an important role in problem solving for spaceflight research as not all experiments can be done in space due to constraints related to time, money, equipment, and manpower.
According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), “countermeasures can be tested in analogs before trying them in space. Those that do not work in analogs will not be flown in space. Ground-based analog studies are completed more quickly and less expensively.”
These missions are considered as field tests in locations that have physical similarities to the extreme space environments.
NASA engineers and scientists have been working with government agencies, academia, and industry to gather requirements for testing in tough environments before they are used in space.
These tests include novel technologies, robotic equipment, vehicles, habitats, communications, power generation, mobility, infrastructure and storage.
Even behavioural effects such as isolation and confinement, team dynamics, menu fatigue and others are also observed.
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